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Is Australia's CSIRO a Patent Troll? 175

schliz writes "Australian tech publication iTnews is defining 'patent trolls' as those who claim rights to an invention without commercializing it, and notes that government research organization CSIRO could come under that definition. The CSIRO in April reached a $220 million settlement over three U.S. telcos' usage of WLAN that it invented in the early 1990s. Critics have argued that the CSIRO had failed to contribute to the world's first wifi 802.11 standard, failed to commercialize the wifi chip through its spin-off, Radiata, and chose to wage its campaign in the Eastern District courts of Texas, a location favored by more notorious patent trolls."
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Is Australia's CSIRO a Patent Troll?

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday June 02, 2012 @04:00AM (#40192237)

    As an amateur photographer, I don't sell any of my photography. I do post it online for people to look at and enjoy, but I don't commercialize it.

    As an open source software author, I also don't sell or commercialize any of my code - I license it for the most part under the GPL and have for years.

    But in neither case does this mean others are free to take what I've created and do with it what I do not wish. You don't get to sell my photography for your own profit, you don't get to include my code in your commercial app, not without my permission. I've been in court over two photography infringements and won, and went damned near it for code I've written with others. I don't see why patents in a system that accepts them as valid (their validity is another entire argument) are any different. Creator gets the say...

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday June 02, 2012 @04:00AM (#40192239)

    Where does having actuallly done the damn work and in fact continuing to put their efforts into doing even more research fit into the patent troll definition?

  • No (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday June 02, 2012 @04:02AM (#40192245)

    CSIRO actually does research. Patent trolls buy their patents.

  • No (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Quick Reply ( 688867 ) on Saturday June 02, 2012 @04:04AM (#40192257) Journal

    No they are not patent trolls. They innovate as their primary purpose, and do not acquire patents from other organisations so they can collect royalties or litigate.

  • by level380 ( 2427256 ) on Saturday June 02, 2012 @04:06AM (#40192265)
    Based on this any research University or Organisation around the world would become a patent troll unless they start to use the 'research' aka patents they created. Let me spell it out for you, CSIRO stands for Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation..... Its a Research Organisation that is funded partly by the Australian Govement and partly by the income it gains from patents it created based on its research. This what a Research Organisation do.... it works on new ideas, gets them to a usable stage and sells them on to other companies to use the idea/tech to make money. In return they get a cut of this all done via the patent system. Would slashdot dare call Stanford University or Harvard University a patent troll? Hell no... Poor IT world. CSIRO asked for payment based on companies using there research when all the IT companies tried to steal the idea and play the mob card, ie if no one pays we don't have to! CSIRO is very easy going and licences the work they do at very cheap prices, its not like they asked a over the top amount. Any money they do gain is feed back into future research projects and isn't paid out to shareholders or fat CEO's!
  • Sigh... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by bertok ( 226922 ) on Saturday June 02, 2012 @04:06AM (#40192267)

    If the article heading is a question, then the answer is automatically...


    Submit articles with real reporting please, the type that presents facts, instead of asking questions.

  • by FirephoxRising ( 2033058 ) on Saturday June 02, 2012 @04:08AM (#40192277)
    Exactly. So the answer is no, they're not patent trolls at all. Others have said that they could've got it to work and that the solution they found wasn't revolutionary, but no one else did get it to work, so CSIRO gets the credit and should enjoy some benefits from that. If you're saying that they did nothing unique, then why didn't you do it first, get a working solution out there and enjoy the results?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday June 02, 2012 @04:08AM (#40192283)

    CSIRO have had this in the courts for years. All of these companies ignored the lawsuit and their own peril.
    If you want to call a patent troll someone who says "This is a new invention. I'm taking you to court for taking my patent and using it without paying me, even though i've told you that you must pay for it", then yeah, they're a patent troll.

    How about you suck my ball sack for repeating an argument you've already been slapped for.

    CSIRO is anything but a patent troll. Period.


  • by mjwx ( 966435 ) on Saturday June 02, 2012 @04:18AM (#40192315)

    Yeah, deffo taking the piss here.

    CSIRO is not a patent troll because they freely license their patents to almost anyone who wants to use them. They don't lock their patents up and wait for someone to accidentally infringe them, if you want to license a CSIRO patent you just contact them. Patent trolls do not license their patents. CSIRO developed the technologies they license, the money gained from the patents goes into more research, so they aren't trolling to get money for shareholders because they haven't got any.

    So the article doesn't know its arse from its elbow.

  • Re:Sigh... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ignavus ( 213578 ) on Saturday June 02, 2012 @04:42AM (#40192407)

    Exactly. THEY invent the process. THEY license it. They do not buy up moribund (and often obvious) patents from other organisations and litigate as their main business.

    An organisation that invents non-trivial things, and patents its own inventions, and only litigates against unlicensed use of its own patented inventions, is not a troll.

    An organisation that buys up old patents for the purpose of litigating against alleged unlicensed users, without inventing the patented inventions itself, is a troll.

  • No (Score:5, Insightful)

    by theweatherelectric ( 2007596 ) on Saturday June 02, 2012 @04:46AM (#40192421)
    If CSIRO is a patent troll then so is every major university. Stanford University's Office of Technology Licensing [], for example, exists to generate income through the licencing of Stanford developed technologies which they then invest back into research and education. CSIRO similarly invests its income back into research and the Science and Industry Endowment Fund []. The idea that research organisations are patent trolls and shouldn't be allowed to licence their inventions to others in order to maintain their focus on research is both farcical and intellectually bankrupt. Joe Mullin's jingoistic and, frankly, pathetically insular article isn't worth a second reading.
  • No. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by shione ( 666388 ) on Saturday June 02, 2012 @04:57AM (#40192465) Journal

    If they were truely patent trolls then they wouldn't do their own r&d, nor would they ask for a measly $220 million in total from a number of organisation. Considering how much these organisations make from using WLAN $220 million is a drop in the ocean.

  • by rtb61 ( 674572 ) on Saturday June 02, 2012 @05:03AM (#40192507) Homepage

    Not to forget CSIRO does a whole bunch of research that they give away absolutely free. It was only the right wing ass hats Liberal Party that demanded all CSIRO research must generate a 'Profit' ie research for pesticides is OK but research using natural predators to controls pest is bad (don't get to sell pesticides etc.). Fortunately this idea was tossed out as basically evil and CSIRO still do a lot of free to access research []. The whining about this patent is likely because money going to CSIRO is a double loss for the greedy, having to pay and a lot of that payment going to free to access research.

  • by tg123 ( 1409503 ) on Saturday June 02, 2012 @05:36AM (#40192651)

    I find this article annoying as the poster is using this article to promote his point of view which is biased and misleading.

    The CSIRO is a scientific research organization and as such it can in no way commercialize the technology.

    I agree that it was sad that CSIRO have to take companies to court to defend their patents but if these these companies would play by the rules and license the technology then CSIRO would not have to resort to the flawed legal system.

    The fact that you do not like the way it uses patents to fund research is neither here nor their it as it is using patent law for it's intended purpose which is different from a person or organization that uses patents purely for litigation.

    I would ask the poster that if he is going to submit propaganda that at least he should be truthful and honest about what he is doing.

    propaganda [prop-uh-gan-duh] Show IPA noun 1.information, ideas, or rumors deliberately spread widely to help or harm a person, group, movement, institution, nation, etc. .... []

  • Re:umm (Score:5, Insightful)

    by wisty ( 1335733 ) on Saturday June 02, 2012 @05:43AM (#40192689)

    When a research organization files a patent on non-trivial research they did, it's called "innovation", and when an organization which employes mostly lawyers files one on a fairly obvious thing it's called "trolling".

  • Re:No (Score:4, Insightful)

    by thegarbz ( 1787294 ) on Saturday June 02, 2012 @05:50AM (#40192705)

    Exactly. This definition only allows commercial enterprises who do in house R&D to avoid being lumped in with the lowest of the low in the business world.

    Medical research institute? Patent Troll
    Any research organisation? Patent Troll
    Universities? Patent Trolls.

    There are many ways research institutes who patent inventions and then licence them out to companies. Some companies decided to copy the technology without licensing it, technology which the instituted invested money into creating. Just because it had to be settled in the courts they are now a patent troll?

    Which idiot wrote this definition?

  • by thegarbz ( 1787294 ) on Saturday June 02, 2012 @06:02AM (#40192743)

    Fail to see the point. If the result of research is not commercially viable then what is the point of the research? Only commercially viable research is passed onto consumers within products. Then it entirely depends on the licensing fees to insure it doesn't make something commercially unviable.

    Note that CSIRO is not forced to fund itself. But at the same token why should the Australian taxpayer be out of pocket for something which benefits the bottom line of the likes of IBM, Cisco, Netgear etc?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday June 02, 2012 @06:10AM (#40192761)

    Exactly. Trolls are also supposed to have no business model other than litigation. This article focuses on one single lawsuit and entirely disregards all the positive innovations the CSIRO has done. Its so stupid, "its not even wrong"

  • by Carewolf ( 581105 ) on Saturday June 02, 2012 @06:18AM (#40192785) Homepage

    Patent trolls do not license their patents.

    What?! That is the primary purpose of all patent trolls! Why do you think they take companies to court in the first place? To force them to license... Same CSIRO.

  • by gstrickler ( 920733 ) on Saturday June 02, 2012 @06:36AM (#40192851)

    Copyright and patent are very different. Patents give you exclusive rights to an idea, process, or method. Copyrights only cover making copies of a specific implementation. Comparisons between the two will always result in a flawed analogy.

  • by dontclapthrowmoney ( 1534613 ) on Saturday June 02, 2012 @09:19AM (#40193523)

    ...but I couldn't see where I could mod the submission as "troll"?

  • Re:umm (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Gadget_Guy ( 627405 ) * on Saturday June 02, 2012 @10:00AM (#40193805)

    Perhaps government agencies should leave "business" to businesses.

    Why? What would businesses do in the case of the Wi-Fi patents that would be different to (and better than) what the CSIRO is doing? It seems to me that how the CSIRO has handled the patent situation prove that they don't need to leave "business" to businesses; the government is doing quite well enough.

    I think perhaps that your argument stems from ideological views rather than an objective analysis of the facts. The CSIRO Wi-Fi technology happened as a byproduct of their research into radio astronomy. Do you really think that businesses can be relied on to do all the work required for astronomy? Is there are big market for that sort of thing?

  • Re:umm (Score:3, Insightful)

    by icebike ( 68054 ) * on Saturday June 02, 2012 @12:53PM (#40194797)

    maybe cos its a government research organisation, not a commercial company. maybe the difference is that many other government research orgs are quite happy to sink countless millions in taxpayer-funded grants into new tech that is merely ripped off by commercial companies, so that taxpayers get to pay for it twice-over.

    First: lets set the record straight, they didn't invent wifi. It was working long before they got involved. They merely improved it, by applying state of the art backscatter minimization techniques already well known in the radar and UHF radio industry so that it could penetrate walls, and work in confined spaces.

    CSIRO patented an idea. An algorithm. A mathematical formula for signal timing. Its exactly the same thing as MP3 patents, or the patents (expired) on GIF images. Had an american company done this, even a publicly funded one, you would have been all over them as patent trolls. But because its Australian it gets a pass?!!?

    Second, instead of setting up a company or licensing others to set up companies to produce products they publicized their work, waited till it was widely adopted, then started suing people. They initially released it for open use, not expecting much. Even when the world+dog decided they wanted laptops they did nothing to license it. Only when it became ubiquitous did they jump in with lawyers.

    If it was tax payer funded, it already belongs to the people.
    People weren't paying for it TWICE until CSIRO decided to sue. So the very thing you condemn was brought about by the action you applaud.

    Only when they started patent trolling did those licensing fees get passed on to the consumer to pay yet again for something they had funded and contributed to the community. Routers cost money to build.

    Is CSIRO returning any monies to the Aussie Taxpayer? Is their government funding in any way reduced in light of their licensing revenue? Nope.

  • Re:umm (Score:3, Insightful)

    by crutchy ( 1949900 ) on Saturday June 02, 2012 @07:07PM (#40196805)
    NASA simply put men on the moon using technology invented during world war 2

    everything seems simple in hindsight

Today is the first day of the rest of your lossage.